This year, there are a number of Oscar-nominated films that take place in Europe. Here are some of our favorites:
-In Bruges (Bruges, Belgium): We saw this film just as we were putting the finishing touches on our Cheapo guide to Bruges. Now, while we weren’t huge fans of the plot – or the script – we always enjoy a flick that makes a city more than just a background, but more like an additional character. The gratuitous canal scenes were great, and of course, it doesn’t hurt to watch Colin Farrell do anything, especially in a storybook town.
-The Reader (Berlin, Germany): We read the book first and were blown away. The movie’s high intensity takes place mostly in post World War II Germany, namely Berlin. Though it’s hard to exactly enjoy a harsh, morality tale, the film is beautiful and it’s truly fascinating to see Hollywood’s depiction of things like post-war train cars (Hanna Schmitz, Kate Winslet’s character, plays a ticket taker). Hamburg-born David Kross, who plays Hanna’s lover, is a delightful newcomer to the Hollywood film scene. The musical score is breathtaking, composed and arranged by 26-year-old Nico Muhly, a prodigy of Philip Glass, and a resident of New York City.
-Vicky Christina Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain): If you haven’t seen this film, rent it now! We saw it twice. Penelope Cruz is nominated for her role as the hot tempered Maria Elena (fabulous!). You’ll love the requisite scenes in Gaudi’s Parc Guell. And, if you’ve ever studied abroad, well, let’s just say there are a few inside jokes.
-The Duchess, (London, and more far-flung England): This is what you call a good ol’ fashioned British costume drama! It doesn’t hurt, however, that the acting is spot on (!) and, for romantics, the story is moving and enthralling. Though most of the film takes place in the English countryside - Devonshire to be exact - there are some terrific period scenes in London, circa the late 1700s.
-Happy-Go-Lucky, (London): So, we’d venture to say we were the only people who didn’t really like Mike Leigh’s acclaimed Happy-Go-Lucky. (Side note: Does this mean we want to hurt puppies and small kittens? Some of our friends think so.) What we did like about this flick was that it rendered a realistic portrait of London, the gritty city. We were drawn in watching Sally Hawkins bike through busy streets and a gray landscape, and loved all those great pub scenes.
-The Class (Paris, France): Though we haven’t seen this one yet, a few French friends have recommended it saying it’s, “a highly moving portrait” of middle school students and their determined teacher. Apparently, much of the movie is unscripted too making it a work of astounding improvisation.
-Revanche, (Vienna, and the Austrian countryside): We are excited to see Revanche when it comes to our local Brooklyn theater in a few weeks. It promises bank robberies, seedy scandals, and much more. It’s this year’s official entry from Austria and is up for Best Foreign Language film. Fun fact: Screenwriter Götz Spielmann grew up in Vienna.
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Oh, and don’t forget the popcorn!